The Truth About Immunizations

August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). While there has been debate about the necessity and safety of vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine vaccinations for children and adults to not only protect against acquiring infectious diseases, but to also help eliminate some diseases.

Back-to-school season is right around the corner. It is important to protect your children especially when they are in a setting, like a school or a child care center, where disease outbreaks can occur. In many instances, there are requirements and laws regulating vaccinations before a child can enter school. There are almost a dozen recommended immunizations for children up to six years old, and while there are less as children grow up, there are still ongoing vaccinations needed. So how do you know if your children are properly protected? To help you navigate this important topic, let’s dispel three common misconceptions and provide the facts and truths of vaccinations.

Misconception #1: “We don’t need to vaccinate against rare diseases.”

Not true. The reason rare diseases have become rare is because of vaccines. While we are fortunate to see near record low levels for some diseases in the U.S., the reoccurrence of such diseases can be just a plane ride away. But, it is vaccines that keep the diseases from reoccurring. In fact, communities where vaccine rates have dropped have seen infectious diseases return. It is just in the last few years that we have seen a significant reoccurrence of pertussis, or whooping cough. So keep your children up to date on these vaccinations in order to keep these rare diseases truly rare.

Misconception #2: “The preservative thimerosal makes vaccines risky.”

This concern revolves around the mercury-based preservative called thimerosal, which is a preserving agent used in some vaccines. According to the CDC, no harmful effects have been reported from the amount of thimerosal used in vaccines, other than expected minor reactions, like redness and swelling at the injection site.

In July 1999, Public Health Service (PHS) agencies, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and vaccine manufacturers agreed to reduce or eliminate thimerosal in vaccines as a precautionary measure.

It’s important to note since 2001, with the exception of some flu vaccines, no U.S. vaccines used to protect preschool children against infectious diseases contain thimerosal as a preservative.

Misconception #3: “Vaccines cause autism.”

Symptoms of autism and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) usually occur around the same time as the first measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and other immunizations are given to children.  As such, some have assumed that there is a link between thimerosal and autism. In 2004, an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report concluded that there is no association between autism and vaccines that contained thimerosal as a preservative.

There are exemptions from taking the vaccinations for students including, medical exemptions for reasons such as anaphylactic allergic response to a previous vaccine and personal-beliefs.

According to the CDC, most of the recommended childhood immunizations are 90%-100% effective. So take the time this month to double check the immunization schedule for your children and yourself, and keep everyone healthy.

If you have any concerns, make sure to discuss them with your TopLine MD doctor.